October 20, 2020
JICA HQ, Tokyo, Japan
I am very happy that Sofia University, the top university in Bulgaria, now starts the course "Seven Keys to the Modernization of Japan." I want to thank Associate Professor, Dr. Evgeny Kandilarov, the Ambassador of Japan to Bulgaria, His Excellency Hiroshi Narahira, and the staff of Sofia University and the Japanese Embassy in Bulgaria for their support.
Bulgaria and Japan have enjoyed a long-lasting friendship that can be traced back more than 100 years. I myself have taught several students from Bulgaria when I was a professor at the University of Tokyo and the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies. So, it is my pleasure to renew the connection with Bulgarian students on this opportunity. I personally visited Bulgaria two years ago, and your unique culture let me love your country more. Also, I am an opera lover and have enjoyed the songs by Bulgarian singers. So, I wish I could have been in Bulgaria to say this all in person, if the situation allowed.
JICA is the implementing agency of Japanese ODA. We have collaborated with the Government of Bulgaria and various institutions to support Bulgaria's socioeconomic development from its democratic transition in 1989, to its accession to the EU in 2007.
For example, JICA funding was used for the construction of the Sofia Metro Line 1 from Serdika Station to the Vasil Levski Stadium Station. Sofia University Station was constructed as part of this project.
Since 2007, Bulgaria has supported several countries through its own ODA, mainly in the Western Balkans. These nations may find it especially valuable to learn from Bulgaria's experience of transitioning to an EU Member State. Under the Western Balkans Cooperation Initiative, confirmed at the 2018 Japan-Bulgaria Summit Meeting, our two countries have committed to work together to support socioeconomic reforms in the Western Balkans.
Bulgaria is a very important partner for Japan. Through our friendship and partnership, Japan now works with Bulgarian organizations to support disaster risk management in the Western Balkans and development of small and medium enterprises in North Macedonia. Expanding on this partnership, Sofia University and JICA have now established this unique course called the "Seven Keys to the Modernization of Japan."
So, let me provide background and purpose of this course.
While there are around 200 countries across the world today, many of them are not economically prosperous and do not have democratic systems nor political freedoms.
To the contrary, Japan is the first non-Western country to become a developed country. One of the unique things about our development was that as Japan modernized and built itself into a liberal, peaceful and democratic nation, it also never let go of its own traditions and culture. Given this experience, I believe Japan can serve as a very good model for modern development.
Japan, however, also made many mistakes in its modernization process. The worst of them were the wars. World War ll lasted until 1945 when Japan surrendered to the Allied Forces. Japan's reconstruction from the devastation following the war was based on our deep reflection upon its preceding policies. Japan pursued to rebuild the nation by embracing peace, democracy and the rule of law as its fundamental principles. Besides, with the support from the international community and the free trade system, Japan achieved the rapid economic reconstruction.
Additionally, after World War ll, Japan sought to rebuild and deepen its relationship with our neighboring countries by accelerating their sustainable development through ODA. With Japan's support, many of these countries have now achieved significant economic and political development. Based on these experiences, Japan continues to actively extend its ODA to support other regions of the world.
By sharing these experiences and lessons learned from its own development and cooperation to partner countries, I believe Japan can serve as a leader in development studies and contribute to global sustainable development efforts.
In 2018, JICA, in partnership with various universities in Japan, launched the JICA Development Studies Program. This program provides young leaders from partner counties an opportunity to learn Japan's development experience in addition to the graduate studies in their respective fields. The DVDs titled "Seven Chapters on Japanese Modernization," which we share with you for this course, was created last year as part of this program.
Additionally, to further provide opportunities for partner countries to learn about Japan's development experience, JICA created the "JICA Chair," or "JICA Program for Japanese studies," in collaboration with leading universities in partner countries. I am happy to announce that this course with Sofia University is the memorable first activity under the JICA Chair program.
JICA's vision is "Leading the World with Trust." We believe forging trust between countries is more critical than ever during this unprecedented time. With trust at the core of our cooperation, JICA implements its programs with partner countries under the basis of mutual understanding and respect - not from the viewpoint of aid or assistance. JICA, alongside its partners, like Bulgaria, will seek to forge trust across the world. By so doing, we hope to establish a free, peaceful and prosperous world where people can dream of a better future and realize their diverse potential.
Through this course, I hope you will learn about Japan's modernization history and our approach to development cooperation. You may see how they are different from the Western approach. After the course, I hope you will be able to share your understanding of Japan with others.
Finally, I hope this course will be continued. And you will contribute to strengthening our countries' relationship and work toward enhancing Bulgaria's cooperation with the Western Balkans. All of you can be the bridge to a brighter global future.